Thursday, August 2, 2018


(The Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literatures of the World)


To be held at Jamia Milia Islamia, Delhi, 15-17 March 2019

Theme: Sunny Pleasure Domes and Caves of Ice: Utopias and Dystopias in World Literature
Utopias are always in fashion, says Barbara Goodwin, as they hold up a mirror to the fears and aspirations of the times in which they are written. Or, as Jurgen Habermas says, since the early nineteenth century Utopia has become a polemical concept that everyone uses against everyone else.  Ernst Bloch, on the other hand, is convinced that theorizing and articulating Utopias is an indispensable part of our critical cultural heritage. Literature being the expression of the innermost thoughts of human beings, for good or bad, better or worse, gives form and shape to suppressed desires, hidden phobias and fears, wishful thinking, and other emotions, transient, dormant or volatile. Literary activity has also been regarded as a form of escape to a Never-Never Land, and Erewhon or Utopia, an Eden or Paradise of sorts where nothing can go wrong. At the other end of the spectrum, contrasting with the desired wish-landscape, is the reverse, the anti-Utopia or Dystopia, reminiscent of Dante’s Inferno, or Milton’s Hell, far from the light of goodness, where evil reigns supreme.
As we go through literary history we note that the idea of Utopia and Dystopia inevitably changes with time. With the spread of education and learning, as the frontiers of knowledge are pushed back, the concept of the ideal haven of peace and happiness undergoes a change. If the earliest known work in this category is Plato’s Republic, with time literature has thrown up Utopias that are very different from the Platonic ideal. In the sixteenth century Thomas More described a fictional island as Utopia. This was followed by several attempts at portraying imaginary Utopias and contrasting Dystopias. Examples may be cited from different cultures across the globe. In China, for instance, there exists the idea of Datong which translates as Utopia, and in medieval Europe the tradition of Cockayne, the land of plenty. In the Spanish tradition we have El Dorado. Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, George Orwell’s 1984 are just a few well-known examples in this genre. The advance in science and technology has contributed significantly to different kinds of Utopias and Dystopias, shifting the focus to a trans-human or post-human world ruled by machines. There are feminist, religious, ecological, or political Utopias. Each has its own pros and cons. In recent years there is Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games which stands out as a dystopian text.
What is the significance of these Shangri Las of literature and how do they portray man’s search for “lost horizons”? How and why does this yearning for an ideal place elsewhere change with the times? With the so-called march of civilization, as we move towards greater “development,” what are the fears and phobias that that compel writers to create nightmare landscapes and anti-utopias where pandemonium rules?
The 18th International MELOW Conference, to be held at Jamia Milia, Delhi, from 15 to 17 March 2019, will debate on these and related issues. Abstracts of approx 200 words may be sent by 15 Sept 2018 to dealing with (but not restricted to) the following broad themes:
A: Theoretical considerations. The changing concept of Utopia through the ages. Utopias and anti-utopias in different cultures. Kinds of Utopias. Theories of Karl Mannheim, Melvin Lasky, Ernst Bloch, George Kateb and others.
B: The medieval idea of an ideal world (or its opposite): Images of the prelapsarian and postlapsarian worlds. Dante, Cervantes, Milton.
C: Widening of horizons: Geographical discoveries, newly-found lands of promise and hope. Variations of (Im)perfection: The abode of Yahoos and Houyhnhnms, island literature, utopias in performance.
D: Poetic Utopias and anti-Utopias: The Romantic Imagination and the Victorian disillusionment. Civitas Dei: Urban Utopias, or cities that symbolize perfection. Indian notions of Utopia. Indian notions of Utopia: Ram Rajya and Gandhian views.
E: The American Dream and the concept of the new Adam. The American Nightmare.
F: The Modern/Postmodern Age and its discontents. The aftermath of technological development: the impact of technology on the concept of the ideal. Technological dystopias. Science fiction. Select authors including: Ursula Le Guin, Ernest Callenbach, Yevgeny Zamyatin, William Morris, Thomas Campanella, Tao Hua Yuan, Florence Dixie, HG Wells, Ray Bradbury, George Orwell, Margaret Atwood, etc.
G: Cinematic representations of horror and hope.
H: Ecological Utopias. Feminist Utopias/Dystopias.

  Your abstract should be sent in the TEXT BOX of the email (not as attachment). The following information, in the given format, should be sent along with the abstract:

 PANEL HEAD under which abstract may be considered (A, B, C, D … H, as given above): 

MELUS/MELOW conferences attended earlier (in which year and where)
Are you currently a member of MELOW? Or do you need a fresh / renewed membership? Please specify.
Competing for ISM Award*: YES or NO
Name of Delegate
Official designation
Email id
Title of Abstract
ABSTRACT [Text] 200 words approx.

·      The subject line of your message should read thus:
ABSTRACT 2019: [YOUR NAME] and [If competing for the ISM Award, state if you are an Indian citizen below 40]*

Deadline for receipt of abstracts is 15 September 2018 
All abstracts will be peer-reviewed before they are accepted. Do not send full papers. Once acceptance letters are sent, full papers (approx 3,000 words) will be invited only from participants (under 40 years of age) competing for the Isaac Sequeira Memorial Award. The rest need to bring their complete papers along at the time of the conference.

In the memory of our patron, Prof Isaac Sequeira, MELOW annually awards a prize for the best paper presented at its conference. The award will comprise a certificate and a cash prize of Rs. 5,000.
The competition is open to Indian citizens who are members of MELOW. The competing participant / delegate should be less than forty years of age at the time of the conference.  The abstract should be submitted by the stipulated deadline. If it is selected for the ‘long list’ the complete paper will be invited by a given deadline and assessed and shortlisted before it is presented at the conference.

Office Bearers of MELOW:
President: Prof Anil Raina (Chandigarh)
Vice-President: Dr Vijay Sharma (Delhi)
Secretary: Prof Manju Jaidka (Chandigarh)
Jt. Secretary: Prof Manpreet Kaur (Delhi)
Treasurer: Parminder Singh (Chandigarh)

Executive Members: 
Prof Sushila Singh (Varanasi)
Prof Dipankar Purkayastha (Silchar)
Prof Debarati Bandopadhyay (Santiniketan)
Prof Ravichandran (Kanpur)
Dr Roshan Sharma (Dharamshala)
Dr Seema Bhupendra (Udaipur)
Dr Neela Sarkar (Kolkata)
Dr Jyoti Mishra (Chattisgarh)
Dr Vandhana Sharma (Jammu)
Dr Suneeta Patnayak (Chandigarh)
Dr Radha Gautam (Surat)
Dr Neepa Sarkar (Bangalore)
Local Organizing Committee (Jamia Milia Islamia):
Prof Nishat Zaidi
Prof Mukesh Ranjan
Dr Shimi Doley
Dr Adeel Mehdi
Dr Asmat Jahan

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